IT has been announced by the authorities in Pa
kistan that the customary animal markets for
Bakr Eid will be banned this year due to Covid-19 pandemic. They fear that traditional animal markets can be a cause of further spread of Covid-19 in Pakistan. It naturally follows that animal sacrifice will not be taking place either. Traditional animal markets should indeed be banned, but Qurbani should be facilitated through alternative means. It falls upon the government to arrange alternative modes of observing the ritual of sacrifice. Small scale rural animal farmers rely on the income they get selling their animals during three days of Bakr Eid and live off it for a whole year. Government’s banning of traditional markets will play havoc with small scale rural farming communities. During these frightening times, Muslims will not be at ease giving up on the one obligation they know as guarantor of divine protection for their family, i.e., observance of Sunnat-e-Ibrahimi, yet even where animal markets are allowed, pandemic fear may cause citizens to avoid them, impacting rural farmers negatively.
Covid-19 presents an opportunity for Pakistan to introduce better practices while offering sacrifice during Bakr-Eid. The selling of animals in makeshift temporary markets for captive consumers leads to price hikes. Slaughtering of animals at household levels generates animal waste that is piled up in garbage dumps all over urban areas and not collected for days due to Eid holidays. Low income neighbourhoods suffer the most. They live in attached houses in narrow alleys. The stench of animal refuse gets to be unbearable. Wild cats and dogs abound and vultures hover over the neighbourhood, threatening residents. No one has paid attention to better management of observance of Sunnat-e-Ibrahimi. People live with the temporary mess and life moves on. This year, the Government of Pakistan has an opportunity to introduce better Bakr-Eid practices. Here is what they should do. Develop a licensing system for establishing online sale of Qurbani animals. Each trading outlet must have licensed veterinary doctors who issue certificate of fitness for each animal, in keeping with Islamic injunctions. Virtual tours of online markets should suffice for purchasing purpose. Each animal should have a reference number for use during transaction. The price of each animal, per weight in kilograms, should be set by the government. If any trader charges more, laws should be made to make the trader accountable to the state and the consumer. Virtual viewing of the process of sacrificial slaughter should be arranged for consumers on Zoom or other prevalent virtual platforms. Consumers can recite the prayer while viewing their sacrificial animal being slaughtered in accordance with their religious beliefs. A screen shot of each animal bought online will be preserved by the consumer on his personal device to facilitate identification. The reference number of the animal on the certificate of purchase issued by the trader will be attached to the animal as it is sacrificed and can be shown to the consumer for his satisfaction.
All sales, all bookings for slaughter, should be finalized online and receipts issued accordingly. For consumers who do not use credit cards, alternative means of payment such as direct payment into trader’s bank account, use of easy paisa, Jazz Cash and other such prevalent methods can be utilized. A standardized form should be filled in by traders and consumers both. It should include description of how each consumer wants the meat delivered, either through a drive by process or at his/her residence. Some may require meat portions pre-packed for distribution. Online traders can do so in neat packages made for the purpose. Some may require different portions cut in a certain way for consumption. Delivery date and time along with other particulars should be settled transparently. SOP must be established for dumping animal waste and sites earmarked by the government. These must be situated at a safe distance from residential areas yet convenient for traders. Roof tops of certain high risings that are not near residential areas can also be assigned for the purpose. Rural forests are useful places to feed the wild animals. Traders will use trucks for dumping animal trash and the practice will not cause health hazard for population. Penal code must be devised for enforcing SOPs observance by consumers and traders alike. It can be done through a presidential ordinance and enforced all over Pakistan.
The best part of this plan is that it will streamline the practice of Sunnat-e-Ibrahim for all times to come and improve it at all levels, i.e., it will ensure safe practices in animal rearing because of mandatory health checks and certificates that carry the guarantee of individual veterinary doctors, certifying no hormones are used to fatten the animal, pricing that is regulated per kilogram weight of each animal, offering of sacrifice online on Zoom and other platforms, ensuring safer and transparent marketing practices, distribution that is hygienic and employment of work force with guaranteed fixed and transparent wages. It will generate safe employment practice with social distancing. Telling citizens they cannot observe the ritual this year is likely to backfire. Government will cut a sorry figure when the society continues to observe the ritual in the manner it is accustomed to, paying no heed to government’s orders. Authorities will invite rebellion when they clamp down on citizens and prevent them from doing what their religion has ordained for them. There will be bigger mess than ordinarily happens during Bakr Eid, making for higher prices as traders raise the cost of animals because of having to cope with security issues, etc, and as cleaners do not show up in a timely manner to clear animal waste because it is created while disobeying government’s orders. Govt must prevent this by better planning.
— The writer is the Executive Director at Pakistan’s People Led Disaster Management.